Thursday, October 2, 2014

So Many Shades of Gray


A lifetime ago, long before my whiskers turned to so many shades of gray (and their upstairs cousins on my head began to follow suit) a very wise man named David Armstrong said something to me - and to be fair to all of the other students seated in the classroom alongside of me - that I have tried hard to never keep too far from the front of my mind.  Professor Armstrong's charge?  "Beware of the man who speaks in absolutes."   I have been reminded, time and time again, over the course of the quarter-century or so since I first heard those words of just how right he was. 

Much has been written - and with justification - over the course of the past thirty to forty-five days of the problems that the National Football League has had with certain of its players, including several high-profile players such as Greg Hardy, Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice, and the apparent propensity of those players to use physical force when dealing with their spouses/girlfriends/significant others and their children.  There were times during the month of September when it seemed as if each and every twenty-four-hour news cycle would carry with it a new report of an NFL player being arrested and being charged with some type of domestic battery or domestic violence.  

When one feature of one person - or one entity - is the focal point of the attention of the world at large, then that one feature runs the risk of being all that is seen or, perhaps better said, being all that anyone notices.  Quick silly example.  For years, Morganna the Kissing Bandit has shown up at professional stadiums all across North America to plant smooches on players.  She is known, principally, for her 60" bust.  Ever notice what color her eyes are?  Ever notice if she has eyes?  

Too often, if we are not careful, the concept of putting a fine point on something becomes hopelessly enmeshed with the concept of painting with too broad a brush.  Using either approach - if vigilance is not the watch word of the day - our appreciation of those characteristics that separate one person or one thing from another becomes dulled.  

It certainly appears as if the NFL, much like any other group of affiliated individuals, has its share of members who may be people for whom a fan will happily sit and cheer for on a Sunday afternoon but may not be people who that same fan would feel comfortable having at his/her dining room table for dinner on a Sunday night.  What cannot be lost, however, in all of the noise generated towards, in response to and at the mere mention of any member of the league's "Bad Boys Club" is that not every man who earns his living playing NFL football deserves to be lumped in with a player who behaves badly and who breaks the law.  

Case in point #1:  Devon Still.  I am constrained to point out that Devon Still is a Jersey guy.  He also is one hell of a good guy.  In June, 2014 his four-year-old daughter, Leah Sari, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma, a type of cancer so severe that at the time of diagnosis her doctors apparently estimated her likelihood of survival as being slightly more than 50%.   The journey that Devon and Leah have embarked on since has been well-chronicled and deservedly so.    On Thursday, September 25, 2014, the toughest, most adorable four-year-old little girl you shall ever see sat in a car seat in the back of her dad's car as he drove her to the hospital in Philadelphia where she would undergo surgery to have her cancerous tumor removed.  With Leah safely buckled up, Devon decided that the time was right for a pep talk.  And what a pep talk it was:




The early results of Leah's surgery have been very good.  According to Devon Still, the surgeons were able to remove the entire tumor and the point of origin for the cancer.   

Case in point #2:  J.J. Watt.  Sadly, I am constrained to confess that unlike Devon Still, J.J. Watt is not a Jersey guy.  Apparently, one state cannot hold a monopoly on being the exclusive home to all the good guys in pro sports.  Who knew?   Watt has been rampaging through NFL offensive lines on his way towards other team's quarterbacks and running backs since the Houston Texans drafted him in 2011.  He has also been active in communities throughout Wisconsin, which is where he was born and raised, and Texas through his Foundation helping create after-school opportunities for children.  

Recently, he also spent quite a day with a young fan named Billy William.  Billy is a boy who has been the recipient of bullying on a constant basis for the past couple of years, apparently since he began attending a new school.  Young Billy is an avid Texans fan and his favorite Texan - his favorite player - is J.J. Watt.  And if your favorite Houston Texan is not also J.J. Watt after seeing this video, then I presume that you are related by blood or marriage to one of Watt's teammates...

...or your eyes have simply not yet learned to distinguish between so many shades of gray.  

-AK 






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